The Relevant Generation

29 Jul

(I wrote this essay two years ago and revised it to fit on my blog.)

This is the relevant generation. We’ve been over-churched and hurt and jaded. We’ve been burnt out, but we’ve realized that it was people, not God. The worst insult is to be called “a pharisee” or to be fake. Religion is a disease to us. We have rejected the cheesy and un-hip. We laugh at those guys that are still “stuck in religion.” We aren’t afraid to cuss, smoke or drink a beer, and we prefer Chris Martin to Chris Tomlin. We are not our parent’s religion. We have rejected the Jesus of the suits and ties, of the organs and the doxology, and we have found the rebel Jesus that loves our tattoos and piercing and dares to refuse to vote republican.

We’re just trying to make sense of this life- to intellectualize, connecting people, bring some sort of peace and understanding. We love words like “story” and “conversation” and “authenticity” instead of the tired old rhetoric. We understand that Jesus cared about the poor, and in turn we care about them. We see the injustice in the world and our hearts break. So we “raise awareness” through art, music, benefit concerts. We “share the need” and get people to act- because real Jesus followers don’t sit on their butts and soak in a feel good prosperity gospel, that is disgusting.  We poke fun of those conservatives with their fancy cars, and suburban dreams, promising ourselves never to become that.  We like to support local coffee shops. We drink gallons of there coffee and discuss life. We love quoting Ghandi and Mother Theresa, and avoid Christian cliches like the plague. We are the next generation hippies, hipsters with our online communities, our Iphones and coffee shop churches. As hipsters, we are not so defined by what we are, but by what we are not, what we make fun of, what we are running from and rejecting.

But, I am afraid for my peers. I am afraid, in our rejection of  christian culture, we haven’t replaced it with anything else. Or maybe it’s just that what we’ve replaced it with, isn’t enough. Maybe we’ve replaced it with all these trendy, “world changing ideas,” but at the heart of it all, it’s still the same old dead thing- religion. Trying to accomplish something in order to be closer to God.

Social justice is our heartbeat. But is it enough to attempt to bring justice to the world through our actions? Even the phrase justice creates some conflict with the gospel of grace.  Do we really want justice? Do we know what we are asking for? Didn’t Jesus already satisfy justice on the cross? Aren’t we called to be representatives of grace, not only to those innocent kids being trafficked, but the ones doing the trafficking? Does God really want justice for those performing abortions? Where is the standard then, who is under justice, and who is not? There is a danger in categorizing the poor and homeless, instead of seeing them as people, we still see an agenda.

Those starving kids from Africa, there faces are everywhere, reminding us who really God loves, and how we have so much and need to live more simple, but do we see the girl behind the counter of the gas station?

It’s easy to love the drug addicts and despise televangelists, and feel like we are displaying the heart of Jesus, but is this really it?

We are empowered by cute sarcastic words, by abstract poetry, by deep discussions, by anything but the Holy Spirit. Or, like everything else, the Holy Spirit is something to be discussed and contemplated about, but not experienced. Experience is tricky, we don’t want to end up on the side of “freaky pentecostal” side of things, we don’t want to be a flake, this polar opposite of strict religion is just as despised. We don’t want some adrenaline rush, we don’t want out emotions to be manipulated. We learned through high school that emotions always lead you astray. We’ve learned through college that suffering is inevitable, that maybe embracing the darkness, will lead some some sort of light, some kind of healing.

But we long. We long like a thirsty man looking for an oasis. We are told to find balance in all things- and so we believe maybe that’s where happiness is found. Somewhere between the hype and the dogma, the fanatics and the rhetoric, that’s where we fit. That’s where Jesus is. We want meaning as much as a life partner. We want to know why more then we want success.

We question everything. The world is at our finger tips, we can do anything and go anywhere. We can know anything, literally in seconds. Just google it. I am afraid, in all our options, we still don’t have life.

We give selflessly, we go into the world, we create beauty, but do we know God? Even knowing itself has become so redefined, so ordinary, we have become jaded to the word. When information that has been hidden or unknown to most but a few select group of people for all of history, is suddenly available to everyone all the time, how does that re-wire us? Life is to know God, but do we know Him more like a facebook friend and less like a lover?

But how do you know God? Surely, it’s not the step by step formulaic religion we swallowed growing up in the church! We seek Him in the eyes of the poor, in giving of ourselves, in community, in creating something beautiful. And we do find parts of Him, we find His traces. Maybe that is enough, we decide.

Maybe our longing and depression is one of the colors of we dip our paintbrush in, to produce a painting of how we make sense of this life. Heartbreak is another.

The concept of grace is thrown in, a splattering of brightness on the emerging canvas, but it is just that- a concept.

We do love God. We are passionate for things to be made right. In our lives, our communities, our world. So we start causes, we try to make the gospel relevant, we tell stories, because that’s what Jesus did, right? We do this despite the tiredness that haunts our eyes. We fear deep down we are becoming our parents, burnt out and defeated, despite our youthful energy, despite all our promises to ourselves and to God.

We feel His unconditional love in these moments, but a gaping gash still remains in our souls. We’ve rejected religion, and replaced it with simplicity- but I am afraid we are still being fed instruction- “Here’s what you do – just love God and love people,” yet we can hardly love ourselves.

So, we’re left trying to solve world hunger, while our spiritual bellies groan for something more then a spoonful of processed grace.


One Response to “The Relevant Generation”

  1. Nate Brager July 29, 2011 at 10:56 am #

    This is really good, Brooke. It’s so easy for our definition of discipleship to become nothing more than a series of knee-jerk reactions against the things that we don’t like. Likewise, it can be very hard to allow the Holy Spirit to search our hearts to see if what we believe in is truly the Christ we see in scripture or an idolatrous knockoff. We are all inclined toward the latter, and it is only by the grace of God that we are able to realize it. I guess what it really comes down to is that our methods must change, but the heart of the message cannot. If we become set in our ways, clinging to our own “time-tested” formulas, we will find ourselves on the slippery slope of legalism. On the other hand, if we change our message in order to make it seem more palatable to a specific group or culture, we dive headlong into heresy. Anyway, I’m glad God is in charge rather than me. Now, I’m going to go download some Ray LaMontagne on my iphone while smoking american spirit cigarettes and drinking boone’s farm strawberry wine from a retro-looking restaurant tumbler that I bought in my favorite thrift store. 😉

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